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Is Self-Care Possible For New Moms?

Wow, I look rough”.

I almost didn’t recognize the woman starring back at me in the mirror. (I finally knew how Mulan felt singing that musical number after her botched meeting with the matchmaker).

The woman I saw in the mirror looked somewhat like me (a much more sleep deprived, cranky, pale, and dimmer version of me) but still me nonetheless.

As an expert in self-love, I knew that a healthy practice of self-care was vital to a healthy relationship with myself. Prior to delivery, I was determined to keep up with my self-care practices postpartum, to show myself (and my fellow mamas out there) that self-care was do-able-no matter what. What I didn’t know, was how impossible self-care would seem as a first time mom and how much I had underestimated how my self-care practices would shift postpartum.

The first few days after delivery, I felt like a million bucks. I was glowing, beaming a bright smile, fueled by the excitement of having my small goddess in my arms (finally!).The energy of having family and friends swoon over Persephone and sharing the details of our labor story, kept me high up in the clouds.

Self-care was not the same, but I felt content with what I was able to accomplish the following days after delivery. Showering, brushing my teeth, washing my face and putting on eyelash serum, nourished me within and revitalized my energy to keep up with the demands of life with a newborn.

But then, 10 days after delivery, it hit me-HARD.

The well of hydration I had from the excitement after delivery, had all but dried up and I was left with the raw fragile energy of being a first time mom (GULP).

Ultimately, I was running on E. I was a slave to breastfeeding. Persephone was feeding on schedule every 2 hours, which left me in a hazy light sleep (and my breasts sore from all the new attention). My body felt completely foreign to me, as my lower section worked to heal its wounds from delivery and the rest of me worked to care for my daughter. Every part of me felt out of balance.

I yearned for the freedom of the self-care practices I had prior to delivery. I missed my daily walks at the nature preserve close to my house. I was counting down the days till I’d be able to exercise again (working out had always felt like therapy to me, which with a newborn, felt more like a necessity than a luxury). And to top it all off, cabin fever was settling in. I envied my dogs, Kimber and Cleo, who ran around outside in the summer Sun, enjoying our backyard.

It took a few mental breakdowns (and a lot of dark chocolate peanut butter cups) for me to gain clarity on how to approach self-care practices with a newborn.

As I sat on the couch feeding Persephone (20 peanut butter cups deep, in my purple robe freshly covered in dog hair and baby spit up), I asked myself the burning question all first time moms wonder, “Is self-care possible for me right now?”.

Then it hit me, I realized that all of my desires for self-care postpartum, didn’t reflect the most important new variable in my self-care equation-I HAD A NEWBORN. Time solely to myself, was meant to be rare and fleeting in this transitional phase of motherhood. Prior to delivering my small goddess, time was expendable, now, time was hitched to Persephone’s schedule (whether I liked it or not).

Metaphorically, I was trying to fit a circle in a square hole, the two concepts would never match up. It finally sunk in, my approach to self-care needed to include my daughter. I had to find ways to include Persephone in my daily self-care practices, in order to nourish myself physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.

Self-care is essential everyday. Not all day everyday, but everyday, there needs to be time dedicated to maintaining your wellness. What I’ve learned from my postpartum self-care hiccup is that you need to be proactive about self-care. Consistent compassionate efforts and daily consideration of your needs CAN NOT be optional.

Your wellness must motivate you. Self-care is is the fire that fuels you. It keeps you warm, full and comfortable. It stabilizes you when you feel out of control. It serves as a constant reminder, that in order to care for others, you first need to care for yourself (I.E you can’t pour from an empty cup).

Being a first time mom, it was a rookie mistake to think my self-care practices wouldn’t change too much. It goes to show that, no matter how much we think we know, there is always more for us to learn. With my new insight, I am practicing ways to incorporate Persephone into my daily self-care routine and learning that it’s okay to plan in advance for self-care time alone (cough cough calling grandma up and asking her to babysit).

Motherhood is a messy and beautiful road and doesn’t come with GPS. Being a first time mama, I’m learning as I go, making plenty of mistakes along the way. All I can do is take it day by day and remember that being a happy healthy mama is the best chance I have for a happy healthy daughter.

Xoxo,
Elena

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